WASHINGTON (CNS) — Miami’s archbishop and the head of Catholic Charities USA urged Congress to pass legislation they say would help more than 650,000 men, women and juveniles who re-enter society each year from prisons, jails and detention centers.

“Those who return to our communities from incarceration face significant challenges. These include finding housing and stable employment, high rates of substance abuse, physical and mental health challenges and social isolation,” said Archbishop Thomas G. Wenski and Dominican Sister Donna Markham.

The archbishop is chairman of the U.S. bishops’ Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development and Sister Markham is president of Catholic Charities.


They made the remarks in a July 8 letter to Republican Sen. Charles E. Grassley of Iowa and Democratic Sen. Patrick J. Leahy, who are chairman and ranking member, respectively, of the Senate Judiciary Committee.

The two Catholic leaders wrote in support of the reauthorization of the Second Chance Act, a 2008 law that authorized the use federal grants to government agencies and nonprofit organizations to help people who are returning from prisons, jails and juvenile facilities.

“The Second Chance Act supports much needed programs in government agencies and nonprofit organizations that provide employment assistance, substance abuse treatment, housing, family programming, mentoring, victim support and other services to individuals returning to the community from prison or jail,” they wrote.

Archbishop Wenski and Sister Markham said that without necessary support services, those release from prison have “an increased chance of re-offending causing harm to society and increasing our nation’s prison costs.”

They also said they joined with Pope Francis in advocating for those who are leaving incarceration.

They said efforts to help these individuals will “not only enhance public safety by providing the necessary resources to address prisoner reentry and recidivism, but promote human dignity by improving the quality of life in communities across the country.”